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Keep More of What You've Earned Women often overlook the need to protect their assets--whether business or personal. That's a big mistake.

By Lesley Spencer Pyle

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You've made it. Your career has taken off, and you are financially stable. You own the things you always dreamed you'd have because you've worked hard your entire life for them and sacrificed where others wouldn't. Unfortunately for you, that means you also have a lot to lose should the unthinkable happen.

Plan, Produce, Protect
Many people, women especially, don't plan for a major financial setback. It's never a pleasant prospect to think about, let alone be prepared for. But it happens every day. Some women lose half of their marital assets when a divorce is final, others get sued when a business venture goes wrong or for any number of reasons. Planning ahead can save you hundreds of thousands--maybe even millions--of dollars. The key is to make a plan before issues arise.

It Can Happen to You
The biggest threat to women's ability to protect their assets is lack of knowledge and information about why asset protection is necessary and how simple it can be. Attorney Alexis Martin Neely, a lawyer and master business strategist, explains: "Most women don't know anything about asset protection and wouldn't think it's something they even need to think about, until it's too late. Too late means that they've gotten into a divorce or partnership or business situation in which their assets are now at risk, and it's too late to put in place necessary protections."

According to assetprotectionplanners.com :

  • 78 percent of defendants thought they would never be sued.
  • Business owners have a 33 percent chance of being sued.
  • In several states, the debts of one spouse are considered the debts of the other. Liability caused by either spouse can leave assets vulnerable.
  • Real estate is a high risk for lawsuits.

You Can (and Should) Protect Yourself
"The biggest mistake women make when it comes to not protecting their assets is thinking too small, being naive and being way too trusting," Neely says. "This often shows up in women starting businesses without the right form of business incorporation, without the right legal agreements and owning everything in their own personal name." It also comes up when women get married or enter into a business partnership without a prenuptial agreement or even discussing what might happen if the relationship came to an end, says Neely, who is also the author of Wear Clean Underwear: A Fast, Fun, Friendly and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents .

Start Here
"My best tips for women who want to protect their assets are: Know what you have, know what the risks are to what you have based on the specifics of your lifestyle and business, and don't naively think that you don't have enough to protect," Neely says.

She adds, "A lot of us think of asset protection as something big, scary and too much to think about it. But to me it's really about clarity, consciousness and self-care. It's a way of showing yourself how much you care about and believe in yourself on a practical, real-life level."

Lesley Spencer Pyle is the founder and president of HomeBasedWorkingMoms.com and HireMyMom.com , and she is the author of The Work-at-Home Workbook: Your Step-by-Step Guide on Selecting and Starting the Perfect Home Business for You. Pyle has been working from home for more than 13 years.

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